The Joy of Storytelling

The local bar was one they had all started coming to quite recently, but soon they found they couldn’t get away from it. They came not for the brews but for the conversation. No one knew who was the first regular at the place, but slowly a group had formed. They were not entirely like-minded, and certainly not all of the same background or age. But there was something that each of them found in each of the other that kept them coming back; the conversations born of the group were just so much better than any pair of them could have produced.

Francis began to speak, and they hushed up from their various side conversations. For this was their strange habit; they talked all together sometimes, and more often in smaller subgroups, but every so often one would speak up and the rest would listen for a spell.

“Arguments and essays are storytelling, no different in kind than novels or comic books.”

“I think we’ve heard this one before,” Black noted with a grin.

“But you’re taking it kind of far this time,” Ham protested, “storytelling is storytelling, but there are consequences. Some stories help us find truth. Some are responsible for real, material progress.”

“There are all kinds of truth,” Francis continued, “and material progress is stumbled on in a lot of different ways. Engineers playing around with creating the laser just thought they were doing something cool, and now it fixes eyes. Botox was made purely for the purposes of vanity, and now is used to treat chronic migraines.”

“That’s all well and good, but no one ever cured migraines with a comic book,” Van replied.

“Are you going to let him say his piece?” Will chastised.

“Careful about indulging my desire for a captive audience,” Francis said by way of thanks, “different sorts of stories serve different purposes, I’ll grant you all. But most of the time we tell them for the same reasons; because we love stories, we love to explore their structure, play with different ways of telling them, find different endings. It’s the same with philosophy and science. Don’t you find ideas kind of beautiful? Once you really get into them? Isn’t argument really about feeling that your cherished ideas have been tarnished in some way by other people’s?”

“OK, we get it,” Marc jumped in, “ideas are fun. Novels are fun. They’re all stories. We’ve heard this all before, you’ve told this story maybe one time too many. Where are you going with this?”

“You sure are an impatient lot,” Francis replied, “but you’re the biggest addicts of all! None of you are specialists in the areas we tell stories about, yet none of you can cease talking about this stuff, coming up with notions, ideas more or less baked, throwing the spaghetti to see what sticks.”

“That’s what everyone’s getting at dude,” Ron said, “you’re preaching to the choir. We get it. Move on.”

“The best stories never get old,” Francis murmured, and they laughed, and moved on to to less well-worn ground. As the hours stretched out, they peeled off in ones and twos, eventually all returning back to their homes and their families.

Duke and Francis were the last to leave. “I think you’re muscling in on my turf with this approach,” Duke said.

“It’s not polite to break the fourth wall,” Francis replied as they walked out. Duke thought the term came from theater, not prose, but he decided to let it be.

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